May 25, 2022 – When the parents of 19 children were shot dead by an 18-year-old gunman in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday as the 18-year-old militant prepares for the funeral, the survivors և their families deal with their own anger և, probably much more.
While it is understandable that parents feel lucky that their children have succeeded, what do you say to their children witnessing the massacre, seeing that classmates, friends, teachers die brutally while they are standing, helpless and scared?
The outcome of the next few days, months, or years depends on many things, but how parents treat trauma, both immediate and long-term, can make a huge difference, experts say.
At best, a long-term scenario. Survivors can have what experts call post-traumatic growth: striving to return to society, making the world a better place, changing who they are, their outlook on the world.
A vivid example of post-traumatic growth. A month after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day in 2018, an army of survivors of that day moved to Washington. DC, now known for “For Our Lives” March. The student-led demonstration, attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters, called for gun control legislation to end gun violence. It remains a viable non-profit organization that still advocates for universal screening and greater support for mental health services.
No sign of future violence
While most children and teens who witness school violence will not become high-profile activists, like those who survived many other school shootings in Parkland, they will not become the next active shooter, mental health experts say. They may not point to a study that traces victims of gun violence to who is good and who is not, but they know that immediate support and treatment can go a long way toward recovery.
“I can not tell you what a particular child will do,” said Robin Gurwich, PhD, a psychologist and professor at Duke University in Durham, USA. “I can tell you that most children will be fine.”
But that does not mean that the rest of the child will not have other behavioral problems, he says. Research shows that the next few days, weeks or months will be rough.
What parents and other caregivers do in the days following violence will help predict the long-term outcome. Gurvich և Other experts say that one can focus first on “psychological first aid” and then move on to therapy, such as trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy, if necessary.
First, “Psychological first aid”.
“Psychological first aid is designed to minimize the impact on the road,” says Gurvich. “Confirm that they are scared or worried.”
Some may get angry, another understandable feeling. For the first few days after children witness or even hear about violence, parents should expect attachment, sleep problems, behavioral problems, and promiscuity, he says.
“Such changes are likely to take several weeks,” he said.
If the daily work is very difficult, “do not wait for them to pass,” says Gurvich. “Ask for help. Resources will be available. Check with your pediatrician or GP. ”
He says that parents can solve specific problems related to the experience at home. If it’s sleep, parents and children can work together to figure out how to make sleep easier, such as listening to their favorite music at bedtime.
Whether parents may be prone to child abuse after childbirth, Gurvich says it is possible to maintain a daily routine. So it is not cruel to claim that they do their homework.
Wait for Change
Not everything will be the same.
“Every time we go through a certain traumatic event, we change,” says Gurvich. “The question is, what do we do about it?” How do we incorporate that change into who we have become? ”
He can also find out how to make sense of what happened.
“I’m so impressed with Sandy Hook’s family,” he said, referring to Connecticut Elementary School, where a gunman killed 26 people in 2012.
They set up foundations and did other propaganda work.
“These kinds of events are life-changing events,” says Dr. David Schonfeld, a pediatrician and director of the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital National Center for School Crisis and Grief. “They will change who children are as human beings, but that does not mean they are injured for life, they will remember it as long as they live, it will change who they are as human beings.”
While people tend to stress the possible negative consequences, there are, of course, “some individuals actually come out of those events with a new sense of purpose.”
He tells his parents. “Yes, your child has changed, you can not go back, but that does not mean they can never cope. [with trauma]»:
The effects of gun violence on children can be serious and dramatic, research shows.
- Gun violence in the neighborhood is associated with an increase in children’s mental health problems. researchers: I have found. Children who lived within two or three blocks of gun violence were about twice as likely to go to the emergency room with mental health complaints in the 14 days after the shooting.
- Abuse of a weapon should be categorized as ill-treatment, domestic dysfunction, and other problems that negatively affect children, as an unfavorable childhood experience, other experts say. say.
- Immediate detection of gun violence, witnessing it լս hearing gunshots are all related to children being sacrificed in other ways. study was found. And this “polyvictimization”, as it is called, was strongly associated with having post-traumatic symptoms.
Adverse childhood events, as this type of experience is known, can have a long-term impact on physical and mental health, as well as on the economic future of a person, says Dr. Hansa Bhargava, Pediatrician and Chief Medical Officer at Medscape. WebMD sister site for medical professionals.
“Children who have suffered traumatic events can affect brain development as well as their immune systems,” he said. “They are more likely to have chronic illnesses, drug use disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, adolescent pregnancies and lifelong depression. “There is a high risk of PTSD for them and their families.”
The impact of family support
Gun violence և deaths are likely to remind children of other losses they have suffered, Schonfeld says, և it may make it harder to cope.
If Tuesday’s shooting injury “flares up” from COVID-19 death or other trauma, such as domestic violence, those children may have more difficult times, says Dr. Allan Chrisman, a retired professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine. Sciences in Duke University Health System. But protections such as the family response և community response can create flexibility in survivors, he says.
“The horse with which the parents deal with it will have a big impact on the children,” he says. “It simply came to our notice then [parents saying]”We do not want to talk about it.”
The parents are understandably upset, says Gurvich. It is normal to show sadness, anger or other feelings, but he tells his parents: It is important for children to see that parents can get together.
Longer lasting effects
“Over time, ‘a very large percentage will have post-traumatic reactions,'” Schonfeld said. “These reactions tend to improve over time.”
While people talk about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) immediately after an incident, such as a school shooting, it is not officially diagnosed as PTSD until its symptoms persist for a month, Schonfeld said. But “it does not mean that you do not have a problem” that needs the attention of a mental health professional.
“As a country, we are already battling a mental health crisis,” said Bhargava Build happier kids, says. “Such events serve to deepen the crisis among a group of innocent children whose only crime was attending school. We need to address the “epidemic” of gun violence and school shootings. For the sake of our children and their health. For all of us. “
Therapy that works
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approaches can alleviate trauma, says Gurvich.
He often offers a type of CBT called trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy. This approach involves children և parents և focuses on the gradual impact of safety, coping skills:. It is a structured, short-term treatment that lasts about eight to 25 sessions.
Therapy helps children resolve distorted beliefs,: learn skills to help them cope with daily stress. Therapy sessions focus on the specific effects of the trauma on the child or adolescent. Gradually, the therapist reminds of the trauma, helping the child or adolescent to use coping skills to overcome their fears or anxieties.
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